1-Day Alaska GLACIER Summit Stresses Circumpolar Climate Issues

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Not upstaging, but as an important adjunct to the UN’s ADP negotiations that started today in Bonn, Germany, the one-day Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience took place in Anchorage, Alaska. Otherwise known as the GLACIER summit, the talks proceeded on two parallel tracks along the common theme of climate change: global warming redirecting the focus of resource development in the arctic; and the effects of both adjustments on indigenous peoples, who make up about 10% of circumpolar populations.

Arctic drilling (dn.no)

About 400 people, around a third of them Alaskans, attended the event. Said Mike Brubaker, director of the Center for Climate Safety and Health of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium: Alaskans are on the front lines of witnessing and understating climate change “in a very intimate way…. People are seeing their world change, their understanding change and they want to do something about it.” Particular local climate sensitivities include emergency response, fisheries, public health, housing, and renewable energy.

Representatives of 20 nations and the European Union, including seven state ministers at the highest level, comprised the other affected group. For the US, Secretary of State John Kerry chairs the eight-nation Arctic Council of 2015-2017 and hosted the GLACIER meeting. The council comprises Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark. These countries have worked together from a Norway headquarters since 1996 for Arctic Ocean safety, security, and stewardship. However, this gathering was not an official Arctic Council summit.

According to Victoria Herrmann, US director at The Arctic Institute in Washington, DC,  the Alaska meeting offers “yet another international forum for countries to come together and make a statement to their citizens at home, and to the world, that they are committed to moving forward in Paris.” Herrmann also notes:

“A certain amount of disdain between the US and Canada [its predecessor as Arctic Council chair], particularly in Arctic affairs…. What the US has identified as its priorities is in a way a direct response to Canada, which was very domestically and resource-development focused, whereas the U.S. is more internationally and science- and diplomacy-focused.”

In a softer take than his usual urgency about climate issues, perhaps determined by his two audiences, Secretary Kerry stressed compromise throughout the meeting in accounting for how nations can continue to burn oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels while still staying below a treacherous level of global warming. The Obama administration has taken an apparent middle road here, allowing Shell’s highly controversial offshore exploration program to proceed against the wishes of environmental groups and simultaneously upsetting pro-development interests for taking a firm stand against resource extraction onshore in the previously protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

At the GLACIER summit, the secretary retained the concept of fossil alternatives as bridges to a future that will switch America and the rest of the world onto renewable sources of energy: solar, wind, and water power. He also stressed the important role of technology, including better environmental observation, greater fuel efficiency, energy efficiency, and home insulation. He apparently felt that this approach would be more appropriate to the people comprising his audience. Kerry’s conclusion:

“The more we can push people in the right direction, the better our chances of making it, but you’ve got to balance it, obviously, with the fundamentals of your economy and the basic needs.”

President Obama also visits Alaska this week and contributed a clarion summary speech at GLACIER. The president bluntly said the world is “not acting fast enough” to address climate change.

“Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways, faster than we previously thought. The science is stark. It is sharpening. It proves that this once distance threat is now very much in the present.

“Those who want to deny the science are on their own. They are on their own shrinking island.”

In an important divergence from the recent stance of many other nations, the GLACIER summit included participation from Russia, a major arctic stakeholder that has been ostracized and condemned for since its provocative actions in Ukraine. It’s very important that Russia meet at the same table with other powers and confirm multilateralism, especially considering the intransigence of some other arctic nations.

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4 thoughts on “1-Day Alaska GLACIER Summit Stresses Circumpolar Climate Issues

  • Presidents Obama’s statement
    “Those who want to deny the science are on their own. They are on their own shrinking island.”
    I hope he is correct that the number of those people are shrinking, because even a small number of those deniers could “sink” our race/planet.
    Perhaps we. humans, could put all those on a melting glacier, so that they may see the result first hand.

    • According to Gallup about 25% are not concerned about climate change. That’s not to say that 25% are deniers, some just think it won’t happen rapidly and won’t impact them personally.

      The most recent number I’ve seen is that about 10% claim that climates are not changing. (And I suspect a lot of them are lying. ;o)

      About 70% of the deniers are 50 years old and older. Die off isn’t going to help the denier cause.
      It seems to me that we’ve seen a significant move from outright denial of climate change to an acceptance. Some people are pausing at the “it’s natural” stage but I suspect most of them suspect they are wrong and will gradually move to the acceptor majority over the next few years.

      It’s now 57% percent “humans are the cause” to 40% “natural causes”.

  • Micro short story: Man and son row out to tidal island to collect oysters. While they are busy the boat drifts away. Suddenly they realize they are stranded. And the tide is coming up, the island will disappear. No phone, no nothing. As the tide comes up to his ankles the father puts the son on his shoulders to delay getting wet. As the sun goes down, the man with son on his shoulders are silhouetted, the tide now to the man’s waist. End of story.

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